Visualizing future cities with Zhongjie Lin

While it’s trade that dominates U.S. media coverage of Chinese-American relations these days, when it comes to the built environment, it’s global issues like climate change, migration, and urbanization that will decide the future of both nations. Their response to these challenges is the subject of a new three-year project led by associate professor of urban design Zhongjie Lin at the Weitzman School

Beijing skyline at dusk

The project is called “Spatial Visions Connecting China and the West: A Centennial Review and New Perspectives on Future Urban Environments,” and it recently earned the support of the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund

For Spatial Visions, Lin is joined by nine other Penn researchers and nine external partners, including Tsinghua University, Tongji University, and Southeast University. They’re planning a large exhibition and two symposia at Penn for the fall of 2020. The exhibition will then travel to the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing, where another symposium is planned. Lin, whose thought leadership on cities has earned him Guggenheim and Woodrow Wilson fellowships, talks about his study of cities in China and beyond.

“In China, sea level rise hasn’t been a major concern for the most part, even though cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai are situated at low altitudes. Chinese cities, however, are confronted with serious flooding,” says Lin. “It forces planners and designers to reconsider the way cities have been built: the impact of mass infrastructural projects on nature and urban ecology, the domination of impermeable materials in buildings and open spaces, the disappearing arable land and wetland. Although issues of the built environment should be addressed locally, they are connected worldwide and require sharing of know-how and coordinated actions.”

Read more at Weitzman School of Design.